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Thursday, 27 June 2002
Page: 2984

Senator BROWN (2:08 AM) —I am concerned about this scheme. It simply goes on and on. It is interesting to see that for the first time the Labor Party is flagging an amendment to chide the government over not doing more about renewable electricity generation as a viable alternative. That is a remarkable breakthrough. Not only did the mover of that amendment, Senator O'Brien, become very disparaging about the Sun Fund Bill, which I put before this parliament five years ago—which was to give landowners an option so that they could get 10 years of the diesel fuel rebate up front in order to have the capital to put in renewable energy such as solar and wind power—but Labor was the prime agent in blocking that measure then. So it is great that Senator O'Brien is now catching up and is beginning to see that this is the century of renewable electricity generation and that the fossil fuel century has ended. The Labor Party is welcomed into the new age.

I also want to mention Senator Winston Crane—he is not here at the moment—who was very much taken by the Sun Fund Bill and, I think, has had something to do with the fact that the government has made some steps toward accepting that there are better alternatives to burning fossil fuel. We still have, in this legislation, government subsidy for the burning of fossil fuels and, therefore, the promotion of greenhouse gas escaping into the atmosphere. Under this government, Australians are the worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters on the face of the planet. That is a terrible record. Instead of this bill, we ought to be having comprehensive legislation to promote energy renewables and energy efficiency in this country. That is what we should be debating tonight.

Mr Acting Deputy President Ferguson, you will remember that three days ago I moved and the Senate adopted an order for the government to produce a number of documents which would allow us to chart the nation's progress in greenhouse gas production and global warming. So far as I know, the government has not even had the courtesy to produce those documents or a statement to the Senate. After some effort, I have had one given to me by the minister and it is a curt and peremptory dismissal of a request for those documents. I would have expected a bit of courtesy and a little bit of information from the office of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. If the documents are not ready, I would have expected an offer for a briefing on where we are at, but there was none of that. Rather, there was a very curt dismissal, a rude rebuff to the Senate's order—in fact, no compliance at all—and a failure by the government to recognise that this is a serious matter, of great concern to many constituents. The government needs to keep the Senate and the country much better acquainted with its progress or lack of progress as we move towards the 10-year review of the Rio conference to be held at Johannesburg the month after next. I have a second reading amendment which has been circulated and I move:

Omit all words after “That”, substitute “further consideration of the bill be an order of the day for the day after the order of the Senate of 26 June 2002 for the production of environment and greenhouse gas emissions documents is complied with”.